BABYLON, Suffolk County (WABC) -- As the weather gets warmer, Long Island officials are reminding people to boat safely and responsibly.
The Town of Babylon held an event Wednesday to raise awareness for owners not to operate vessels while intoxicated.
One of the boats law enforcement uses to guard the waters was named in honor of Brianna Lieneck who was killed in a crash in 2005.
Brianna was killed when her family was returning on the water from what started as a beautiful trip home from Fire Island 18 years ago. The 11-year-old's nickname was Breezy.
"And a boat came up out of nowhere, came over the top of my boat, ripped the 1,200-pound canopy off and it collapsed on Brianna," her mother Gina Lieneck said.
Lieneck and her husband were both critically injured.
"There are some days that I think Brianna's life was taken unfortunately, but I think that her life was taken to possibly save other lives," Lieneck said.
That is what started her quest for better boating practices. Brianna's Law was passed in 2019 to require a boating safety class for anyone with a license beginning in 2025.
But she is also a spokesperson for Operation Dry Water.
"Alcohol is involved in almost 20% of all fatal boating accidents and we're looking for people to designate a driver just like they would a car," said Babylon Public Safety Commissioner Gerard Gigante.
According to U.S. Coast Guard data, over half the victims who die have capsized or fell overboard.
Lieneck is also lobbying state lawmakers for a new BUI law which would remove licenses from anyone caught operating a boat while intoxicated. She said she knows people will still break the law but she also knows if she can save even one life, she will never stop trying.
The Town of Babylon is reminding the public of the importance of following boating regulations:
The New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Department said in its 2022 Recreation Boating Report: "Alcohol and drug use is a significant cause of fatal boating incidents in New York. Between 2005 and 2022, intoxication was found to be the primary contributing factor in 79 fatalities (21.4%), of all boating deaths. In 2022, alcohol or drugs, including marijuana are known to have been present in 7 of the total fatalities for the year."
"Boating while Intoxicated: If you are a motorized vessel operator who is 16 years of age or older, you are prohibited from operating under the influence with passengers who are 15 years of age or younger aboard. Consequences for doing so:
- Conviction of a Class E felony: jail time and/or a fine of $1,000-5,000
- For a 2nd offense, conviction of a class D felony: jail time and/or a fine of $2,000- 10,000
- Your vessel operation privileges can be suspended for 24 months The Court can consider vehicular traffic law violations from within the past 10 years when sentencing for related navigational law violations. Courts sentencing for related vehicular traffic violation can consider related navigational law violations. (Violations on the water can be considered in traffic court and Road violations can be considered in boat court)."
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